BSC helps food manufacturer out of a ‘sticky’ situation

A major food manufacturer in Melbourne had to frequently replace bearings in their filling machine which injects sticky breakfast product into jars. High exposure to moisture and detergents to clean the machine took its toll on the bearings, which necessitated bearing replacements every few months.

When BSC sales specialist Jamie Stonehouse learned about the problem, he recommended replacing the standard ball bearings with NSK’s Molded-Oil deep groove ball bearings to extend the machine’s service life.

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How a bearing upgrade saved valuable maintenance time for Tassal

When the operators at Tassal Group’s Huonville salmon processing facility in Tasmania were frustrated with having to replace their conveyor belt roller bearings every few weeks, it was WebsterBSC’s Sales Service Representative, Dean Nomikos who first suggested switching to the NSK Molded-Oil bearings.
The existing stainless steel bearings, as Dean explains, were failing frequently in the harsh working conditions, keeping the maintenance team busy with bearing replacements and frequent greasing.
“The processing facility uses lots of water and chemical cleaners to keep the conveyor systems sanitised. As a result, the bearings were in a very corrosive environment,” says Dean. “In addition to being highly resistant to corrosion, Molded-Oil roller bearings also eliminate the need for daily greasing, which makes them an environmentally-friendly bearing solution for the plant.”
Clinton O’Neil, a mechanical fitter who has been working with Tassal for nearly 20 years, says switching to Molded-Oil roller bearings has saved the maintenance team significant time in bearing replacement and lubrication.
“Before switching to Molded-Oil, we had to change out the bearings every 2-3 weeks. But not anymore. The new bearings easily last six months or more and the best thing is that they don’t need any lubrication. You just put them in and forget about them. Before switching to Molded-Oil, we had to grease the bearings daily,” he says.
Clinton says the Tassal maintenance team has since decided to replace most of the bearings used in conveyors at the Tassal Huonville facility and other processing facilities with Molded-Oil bearings.
“We prefer using high-quality bearings that last longer rather than using cheap bearings. We had already been using the NSK tapered roller bearings in our salmon smoker kilns successfully, therefore NSK was a preferred bearing brand for us,” he says.
“The Huonville facility receives fresh salmon from Tassal’s Dover processing facility. We process around 20 tonnes of fresh fish per day to produce approximately 5-6 tonnes of finished products. The conveyors take the fish through all stages of processing, from the raw fish to the finished product and we now use the NSK Molded-Oil in most of those conveyors.”
The secret behind the NSK Molded-Oil bearings’ resistance to corrosion can be found in their unique features.
Molded-Oil bearings are lubricated with NSK’s own oil-impregnated material – Molded-Oil – which consists of lubricating oil and polyolefin resin that has an affinity for oil. Lubricant slowly seeping from this material provides ample lubrication to the bearing for extended periods.
Because the bearings can be lubricated with minute quantities of oil that exudes from Molded-Oil, the bearings are able to minimise oil leakage. Packing with Molded-Oil after providing the bearing surface with special treatment realises smooth rotation of rolling elements.
As Dave Healey, NSK Australia Sales Engineer explains, Molded-Oil bearings are ideal for use in water or dust contaminated environments.
“In washdown applications in the food and beverage industry, it’s important to protect the rolling elements inside the bearing from getting corroded. That’s where the Molded-Oil bearing comes into the picture to provide a corrosion-free solution,” he says.
“There are other applications where we generally recommend Molded-Oil. For example, if you have an application that is difficult to grease, perhaps due to the remote location or any access restrictions, you might want to switch to a maintenance-free bearing. Another application is in vertical shafts. Because of the gravity, the lubricants tend to leak out of the bearing. That is where having solid lubricant eliminates any risk of oil leakage,” he explains.
As the largest producer of Tasmanian grown Atlantic salmon, Tassal has three direct hatcheries with capacity to produce over 10m smolts per year. The smolt are majority reared at the company’s land-based Rookwood Road RAS (Recirculating Aquaculture System) in Ranelagh, Tasmania. After eight to twelve months, the smolt are transferred to Tassal’s four marine zones in the sea, where our Sanctuary pens have a volume over 20,000 cubic metres and holds enough Salmon to produce at least 300 tonnes once harvested.
Processing the fish into final products ready to dispatch to the consumer market occurs at Tassal’s five processing facilities, of which three – Huonville, Dover and Margate – are in Tasmania. Dean says WebsterBSC has been working with all three facilities over the years as a trusted supplier.
“As a supplier of bearings and engineering supplies in Tasmania, we work closely with fisheries and marine farms to make sure they have access to the latest solutions and products. For the past 11-12 years, I’ve been personally checking on Tassal’s processing facilities, keeping in touch with the maintenance personnel every week to see if there’s anything I can help them with,” Dean says.
Clint says he is happy to be working with WebsterBSC, particularly praising the team’s knowledge of maintenance requirements.
“The team at WebsterBSC are very easy to work with. They all have very good maintenance knowledge and help us with any information we need. Even when we don’t exactly know what solution we are looking for, they go out and source something for us from their suppliers. So, the collaboration is an absolute win-win,” he concludes.
NSK Molded-Oil Bearings Key Product Features:

  • Clean environment with grease-free property and no oil refilling.
  • Operating life more than twice that of grease-lubricated bearings.
  • Excellent in water or dust contaminated environments.
  • Environmentally friendly with very minimal oil leakage.
  • Ideal for vertical shaft applications.
  • High integrity contact-seal type available in standard inventory for ball bearings.
  • Available in ball bearing, wide inner ring bearings and spherical roller bearings.
  • Available in the ball bearing type is high grade stainless steel.

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NSK Disc Agri Hub meets expectations of sugarcane equipment manufacturer

Wayne Willis speaks proudly when he talks about the history of Hodge Industries, where he is the owner as well as design engineer. A brief review of the company’s manufacturing legacy tells us why.

Wayne is the fourth generation of the family-owned business founded in 1914 when Wayne’s great grandfather won a patent for his unique sugar planter. The company has since expanded its range of products to include equipment for every stage of sugar cane plantation, from land preparation to planting, fertilising, weeding and harvesting.

They have exported since 1974 to almost every sugar cane growing country in the world and are the sole supplier to the sugar farming industry for a wide range of products. They also offer machinery repairs and general engineering services from the Hodge factory in Mackay.

Over the past 20 years, Hodge Industries has been relying on the BSC branch in Mackay to source the bearings and bearing components the company requires for a number of its agricultural equipment as well as a number of other miscellaneous parts and components required for their factory.

Wayne says the partnership has been advantageous for Hodge Industries for a number of reasons.

“Our experience working with BSC has been really good. The products we source from them are all excellent, as is the service they provide. More importantly, they constantly talk to us about our requirements to make sure they are well-stocked for whatever we might need in the future. They work hard to ensure we are fully supplied with what we need.”

One of the key components that BSC supplies to Hodge Industries is the NSK Agri Disc Hub – a complete bearing housing unit designed and manufactured by NSK Germany to withstand the rigours of broad acre farming, including Australia’s harsh conditions.

Andrew Rooney, BSC Mackay branch manager says the first time BSC introduced NSK Agri Disc Hub to its client was around 4 years ago. “Since then, they’ve just continued ordering the product. They don’t use anything else,” Andrew says.

Wayne says Hodge Industries has used the NSK Agri Disc Hub to improve the design of its sugar cane fertiliser equipment, which are used to fertilise the sugar cane ratoons when they grow about one metre tall.

“Through this improvement, we’ve created a more reliable product, to the point that we’ve actually never experienced a bearing failure since we started using the NSK unit. The Agri Disc Hubs were actually tested overseas in harsher environments than what we experience here in Australia, which explains their toughness and high performance,” he says.

Wayne says using the Agri Disc Hub has enabled Hodge to make its fertilising equipment slimmer, lighter, and stronger.

“The bearing we used before was a lot bigger, and we had to make them in components at our factory and then assemble them out in the field. The NSK Agri Disc Hub that we get from BSC replaces that whole mechanism. It’s also smaller and thinner, so it works really good for our product.”

According to NSK Australia’s Sales Engineer Dave Healey, the strength of NSK’s Agri Disc Hub lies in its thick solid steel housing body, which has a minimum thickness of 8.5 mm around the seal and bearing.

“This allows the bearing to absorb heavy impact loads,” he says. “The double row ball bearing installed at a 40-degree contact angle also enables the Agri Hub to cope with higher axial loads compared to a standard 30-degree angle of most competitor’s bearings.”

“The Agri Disc Hub is designed to ensure maximum protection for the rolling elements. A five-lip cassette seal protecting the housing and a further triple lip seal protecting the bearings make it very difficult for contaminants to reach the rolling elements, ensuring longer life for the bearing,” Healey says.

According to Andrew, there is great take-up of the Agri Hub in Mackay, both from manufacturers such as Hodge Industries as well as from farmers and equipment repairers.

“We just make sure that we stay on top of our customers’ needs and that we have all of the parts in-stock, when they need it and where they need it.”

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Keeping operations sweet with sugar cane shredders

All sugar cane that passes through a sugar mill must pass through a shredder, which reduces the cane to a fibrous mass before it passes on to further crushing and refining processes required for the production of sugar.

Shredders run at high speeds, approximately 1000 rpm, churning through heavy loads of cane throughout the mill crushing season. This arduous process requires shredder components that can withstand high strain.

As the shredding process occurs very early in the production of sugar, it is critical that shredders are maintained in working condition. If a shredder fails, mill production comes to a halt. Choosing the right parts and keeping them well-maintained is therefore essential in minimising costly downtime.

The spherical roller bearings are a critical component in the operation of a cane shredder. When bearings are fitted to the shaft of the shredder, they fit on a taper which locks the ring of the bearing on to the shaft so that it cannot move. Forcing the ring upon the taper elastically stretches it. Under the heavy loads, high speed, and high temperatures of the shredding process, the ring of a bearing can become cracked and fracture, causing the shredder to seize up.

BSC and NSK engineering teams carry out regular installation and maintenance of bearings for sugar cane shredders at mills across Queensland and northern NSW. According to Anthony Richards, reliability engineering manager at BSC, installing the right spherical roller bearing can make all the difference in maintaining shredder operability throughout the crushing season.

“NSK’s TL Series is the go-to for this kind of application. They are extremely durable and have a long operation life,” Richards said.

A special surface hardening thermal treatment is applied to the inner rings of the TL Series bearings, making them highly resistant to ring fracture and cracking under the straining conditions of the cane shredder.

Because the TL Series bearings have harder surfaces than standard bearings, their wear resistance is higher, enabling them to last longer in arduous conditions. While standard bearings usually last for two seasons of mill shredding, the TL Series can last up to four.

To get the most out of these bearings, it is important that they are installed properly and regularly monitored.

“Because shredders are such a critical piece of equipment, it is extremely important that the bearings are fitted correctly to get the best life out of the product,” said Richards.

First, BSC and NSK engineers visually inspect and measure the internal clearance of the new bearing and inspect the shredder shaft for defects. Bearing Blue is then applied to the shaft to check on the contact area of the bearing tapered bore on the tapered shaft. The bearing bore and shaft are cleaned before the bearing is mounted. Hydraulic oil under pressure is fed to the bore of the shaft through to the inner ring to assist in axial drive up. A dial indicator is then mounted on the shaft to monitor axial movement and feeler gauges measurements are carried out to establish the final clearance setting of the bearing. Using feeler gauges, the gap between the seal shoulder and the bearing’s inner ring is measured in order to match the required shim thickness. The bearing is then dismounted, the shim with the required thickness is put in place and the bearing is remounted. Finally clearance measurements are taken again to confirm that the fit is correct.

“Our engineering services teams at BSC have expert product knowledge and experience in installing and maintaining these bearings,” Richards said. “Three times a year we will do vibration testing to monitor their condition, and we will often do yearly inspections.”

With local branches located across NSW and Queensland, BSC is able to respond quickly to customers requiring new products or maintenance services.

“If a customer rings up and needs assistance, we are available and ready 24/7. The TL Series is quite a specialised bearing and it is stocked and readily available at our branches, so if a client needs the product, we can deliver it quickly,” said Richards.

“Whether it be remotely assisting with technical information and advice over the phone, or actually going onsite to carry out or assist installations or checking and replacing equipment – when our customers need us, we are always ready to help.”

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